DTE converts coal plant to biomass

DTE Energy Services (DTEES), headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is acquiring a significant interest in the 49.5-megawatt Mt. Poso cogeneration company power plant near Bakersfield, California. DTEES will operate the plant and co-lead its conversion to operate on 100 percent biomass fuel, primarily wood fuel derived from urban wood waste, tree trimmings and agricultural residues.

One of Mt. Poso’s three current partners, MacPherson Oil, will continue to have an ownership and management interest.

The other two partners, Northern Star Generation and Red Hawk Energy, are selling their interest. Red Hawk Energy has been instrumental in developing the biomass conversion project.

DTEES has completed a similar biomass conversion in Cassville, Wisconsin and has another under way in Stockton, California. The company also operates biomass power plants in Woodland, California and Mobile, Alabama.

The Mt. Poso plant began operation in 1989 and it employs the best available control technologies to minimize air emissions, uses no potable water (water supply comes from the Mt. Poso oil field), and maintains zero discharge of solid and liquid wastes.

The plant currently operates on a blend of coal, petroleum coke and tire-derived fuel. Operating on biomass fuel, the plant will produce about 44 megawatts of power, enough to supply the electricity needs of about 35,000 homes.

Following the conversion, the plant will provide power to PG&E under a long-term renewable power purchase agreement. The plant will help PG&E meet California’s 33-percent renewable power requirement.

Conversion of the facility to burn renewable biomass is under way and is expected to be complete in 2012.

The conversion will employ approximately 90 construction workers at peak. Permanent employment at the plant will increase from 28 to 38 when the conversion is complete.